I just wanted to write a story about a broken man who’s redeemed by the love of a good, smart woman.
— EL James, 29 June 2015
Monsters or lovers? The five-part blog series
Thinking about EL James’ statement above, I took a look at Disney’s 1991 and 2017 versions of Beauty and the Beast and compare their portrayals of redemption with that offered in Fifty Shades.
- Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 1: Coercion) (6 Apr 2017)
- Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 2: Control) (15 Apr 2017)
- Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 3: Guilt and shame) (3 May 2017)
- Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 4: Transformation) (25 May 2017)
- Beast and Christian Grey: monsters or lovers? (Part 5: Hope and love) (16 Jun 2017)
Other (lighter) related posts include:
- Less was more: my (spoiler-free) review of the live-action Beauty and the Beast (18 Mar 2017)
- 50 Shades of Parody: Monsieur Gaston will see you now (9 Mar 2017)
- 10 things I hope Disney changes from the 1991 Beauty and the Beast (14 Mar 2017)
- Crimes against literature: Fifty Shades has 50 novel-writing mistakes (part 1) (8 Feb 2018) (not really related to Beauty and the Beast, just about bad writing habits)
Beautiful love or beastly suffering? The eighteen-part blog series
In this extended blog series comparing Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast with Fifty Shades, I show why one is worthy of being called a redemption story and the other isn’t. I wrote this series first and it only looks at the 1991 version, but it stretches over a wider range of themes than the five-part series above – including purity, womanhood, non-consent, coercion, grooming, wisdom, promise, loyalty, faithfulness, sacrifice, resurrection, and more.
If it’s too much like hard work to read all the posts a summary of how redemption in BATB compares with 50 Shades is your too-long-didn’t-read, sparks notes, summary of the key points from each. You can then dip into the ones that interest most. Otherwise, feel free to browse the index below.
1. Redemption is beautiful love, not beastly suffering (lighter read)
A redemption narrative that focuses on suffering can lead you to believe that a person’s suffering is what brings about the redemption, not their love.
Fifty Shades isn’t a redemption story because it fails to establish culpability. Its sense of shame is misplaced and its happy-ever-after is contrived.
Also talks about: Genesis, sexual violence, childhood trauma,
Beast’s curse illustrates his condition. Christian’s curse serves the plot. That’s why the narrative of his fallen state is incoherent.
Also talks about: Non-consent, sexual violence, the fairy-tale genre.
Fifty Shades tries to portray a female character whose virtue is her sexual inexperience, but who isn’t corrupted by sex. Problem is, it doesn’t work.
Also talks about: The fairy-tale genre, womanhood, The Twilight Saga, purity, coercion.
A redeemer has both “position” and “identity” privilege. Together they mean that if a redeemer intervenes for someone else, they do so because they want to.
Also talks about: Power imbalance, grooming.
6. Maurice vs Ana: Motivated by age, naiveté or love? (lighter read)
Even in his old-age Maurice is genuine and loving. He is childlike. In contrast, Ana’s subconscious is cranky and her inner-goddess is childish.
Also talks about: wisdom, self-sacrifice.
7. Beast vs Christian: The dark art of grooming (a longer, analytical read)
When Ana agrees to a BDSM relationship with Christian, is it her choice or is she groomed? What is grooming? And how does Christian compare to Beast?
Also talks about: non-consent, vulnerability.
8. Redemption vs Romance: Choice, commitment and consent (part 1) (a longer read)
Can we say the non-consensual sex Christian has with Ana is OK because it’s all part of a passive, uninformed and unenthusiastic redemption arc? No.
Also talks about: promise, faithfulness, loyalty.
9. Biedermann vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 2) (a longer, analytical read)
Comparing Christian Grey’s coerciveness to 20th Century dictators. And having a think about Ana’s blindness to the abuse that’s happening.
Also talks about: honesty as a means of deceit.
10. Gollum vs Christian: Choice, commitment and consent (part 3) (a longer, analytical read)
Christian Grey is as tricksy as Gollum – but he doesn’t see it. Because in his book, faithfulness is about control, and redemption is about having Ana.
Also talks about: kindness vs blindness, wisdom, trust, possessiveness.
11. The Suffering Servant vs Ana: Choice, commitment and consent (part 4) (a longer read, rich with theology, but also references the plot of a BDSM erotica that inspired Fifty Shades)
Ana suffers at the hand of Christian Grey who supposedly loves her, but Jesus suffered because the world hated him. Fifty Shades fails at redemption. Again.
Also talks about: theology, free will, submission, self-expression, solidarity, wealth, poverty, the Trinity, prevenient grace, transformation, resurrection, salvation.
12. Beast vs Christian: Rescuer, stalker, or masculinity-in-action? (lighter read)
Was Beast stalking Belle, when he chases after her into the woods? And how are his actions different to Christian tracing Ana’s phone?
Also talks about: boundaries, mercy, pity.
13. Beast vs Christian: Shame, humiliation, judgement, knowledge. (lighter read)
Both Beast and Christian have a moment when they see the virtue of someone else and are truly shamed. But they react very differently.
Also talks about: worthiness and unworthiness, punishment, abuse, true change.
14. Beast vs Christian: Wealthy givers of gifts and affection (lighter read)
Beast’s gift-giving is as humble as his new-found affection for Belle. Christian however, uses his wealth to glorify himself and control Ana.
Also talks about: the fairy-tale genre, eternal inheritance and glory, affection, surprises.
Ana is Christian’s embodied hope. That’s why he doesn’t change and remains fixated with her. Beast, on the other hand, gives up control.
Also talks about: wishing, possessiveness, abuse tactics.
16. The Greys vs Their Highnesses: Egos and dreams in the ballroom (lighter read)
Christian uses his wealth to wrest Ana out of the context where she is most at home. Beast, provides a context that allows Belle to be truly herself.
Also talks about: self-expression, anticipation.
Gaston and Jack Hyde are mirrors to Beast and Christian. Yet, where Christian looks for vengeance, Beast remembers mercy.
Also talks about: abuse, forgiveness, transformation, resurrection.
Beauty and the Beast uses romance to talk about friendship in the present and redemption in eternity. Fifty Shades uses BDSM to talk about sex and marriage.
Also talks about: hope, Twilight, gender equality, fairy-tales.